Tag Archives: documentary film

Pierre Boulez

Documentary on the life and times of Pierre Boulez, French composer, conductor, writer and founder of several music institutions.

Since Pierre was a contemporary musician (well almost), there were lot of video footages of him giving sound bytes at various times of his life and career. Interesting to know his views on various subject, including his contempt for musical institutions like the philharmonics.

There is no discussion about his personal life, marriage, kids at all and even wikipedia does not dwell too much on that aspect. So he played musical instruments, wrote several of them and conducted also at several occasions. A sort of a complete music master.

The documentary is available at this link for whomsoever wants to view it.

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When the Mountains Tremble

Brilliant award winning documentary on the bloody fight between the indigenous people of Guatemala and its army.

Partly narrated by Rigoberta Menchu the Nobel Peace winner in 1992, it narrates the woeful state of affairs of the indigenous people of Guatemala and the army on the other side supported by the government, the rich and the US business interests. US by supplying aid to the government ensured to protect its business interests in the country.

The army was brutal in its campaign against the natives in that they destroyed property, killed people, raped women at will. All that the indigenous people wanted was their right to live peacefully and with dignity but rich business interests and corruption in the army came in their way.

And it had to happen that the indigenous people who were peaceful had to resort to take up arms to protect themselves and their people and villages. In a way, this documentary shows the genesis of a guerilla struggle. This documentary was shot in 1983 and the period from 1960 to 1996 were the bloodiest years in Guatemalan history with army atrocities galore. (source wikipedia).

Almost all the action in the documentary is actual footage except for one presidential lunch which was dramatized. The documentary got a jury award at the Sundance.

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Night and Fog

Deadly French short film “Night and Fog” (1956) on the horrors of the concentration camps of the world war II.

The documentary is in a narrative form and it has used many shocking actual videos and photographs besides showing contemporary images of the concentration camps, the gas chamber, the buildings, the structures etc. Footages from the trains ferrying the inmates to the camps, their living conditions, the bunks, the toilets. Some live images of Himmler is also there in the film where he is asking his people to focus on destruction.

The visuals and videos are disturbing to say the least. They show us the horrors of the war in its brutal form. There is a surgical room where experiments are carried out on inmates.

I also saw a 9 hour documentary Shoah also focusing on the survivors of the concentration camps and detailing their experience.

This haunting documentary is made by Alain Resnais, The scripwiter Jean Cayol is a survivor of the Mauthusen-Gusen concentration camp.

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A Life Among the Clouds

An exciting short documentary on tree kangaroos in Papua New Guinea.

Never knew of the existence of tree kangaroos anywhere. The normal thing you relate to when you hear about kangaroos are the hopping species found predominantly in Australia. This type of tree kangaroo is adept at climbing trees and very little is known about them.

So a scientist with the help of locals in Papua New Guinea traps a few tree kangaroos with the intention of fitting GPS tracking devices onto their necks and getting voluminous data that correlates to not only their behaviour but also other animals in the area, the trees, plants, wildlife etc.

Another lovely thing about the rain forests in Papua New Guinea is that all the land is owned by the locals only. It does’nt belong to the government or big corporates. So the locals have a big stake in protecting the environment, its habitat and retaining the ecosystem.

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Gates of Heaven

An interesting documentary Gates of Heaven (1978) produced, directed and edited by Errol Morris about the pet cemetery business.

Apparently it is a big business because many people own pets these days because with the nuclear family having more or less vanished, people are living a lonely life, especially the elderly, so a pet becomes a kinda life to them. There is a pet explosion taking place world over.

So these are like proper cemeteries with decent to luxurious burials, tomb stones with pictures, dates etc. There is no church service but there is everything else besides that. In the first part of the documentary, it talks of one gentleman Mac who loves pets and has created a pet cemetery but that is clashing with a tallow factory nearby which takes all the animals, strips them of their skin and bones and reuses them into something else.

In the latter part of the documentary, it talks about a family who is into pet business and their two sons are also into it and they have incentives, motivations, parties and what not like a proper business. The documentary is not a narrative but a series of interviews with various people so that’s fine.

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Shoah

A devastating 9 hour documentary Shoah (1985) made by Claude Lanzmann giving first hand accounts of the survivors of the concentration camps in World War II.

Devastating, because of the horrors of the war narrated by the survivors, many of whom Jews from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Lithuania and had seen first hand the gas chambers, the trains which were used for deportations of Jews from many parts of Europe to places like Auschwitz – Birkenau, Dachau, Treblinka etc. Some of the interviews were with the Nazi officers themselves – one was clandestine, other was open and they also narrate their remorse and revulsion at what happened to thousands and thousands of Jews. Men, women, some of whom now settled in the US, Israel, Hungary, Czechoslovakia had trouble recalling the horrors they had witnessed and broke down. In the latter part, the documentary moves onto description about what happened in Warsaw ghetto, which again housed thousands and thousands of Jews in terrible conditions, waiting for deportation to the concentration camps and gas chambers.

This is one documentary, every human being should watch. The horrors of the war should not be forgotten.

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Among the wild chimpanzees

Most breathtaking documentary on the legendary primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall and her path breaking work on chimpanzees. She arrived in Gombe National Park in then Tanganika (now Tanzania) and started studying the life of chimpanzees there. Being known as animals closest to humans, and known as intelligent animals having learnt to make and use tools for their daily use, Jane started observing them at close range all aspects of their life. Initially she was looking at them from a distance, but slowly over the years, she started moving closer to them to the point where human chimpanzee interaction started taking place, albeit in a very limited way. The chimpanzees started entering the human habitation for the store of bananas kept there and that allowed for a more closer and better study. This movie was shot in 1982, 22 years after Jane set foot in Africa but she has been at it for more than 6 decades now. They had some lovely close up video shots even from way back in the early 60s and that makes for a good viewing.

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Viv Richards – King of Cricket

A 1987 documentary on the king of cricket – Viv Richards, the legendary batsman of West Indies, Antigua and Somerset. Viv has undoubtedly been the best batsman of my era, the 70s and 80s with his hard hitting explosive batting much before the advent of the hard hitting batsmen of the T-20 era. He had lightning quick reflexes and good eyesight as it has been confirmed by his father, Malcolm Richards in the documentary. The documentary talks of only his brief period in the mid 80s when he was appointed captain following Clive Lloyd’s retirement. There is no mention of his innings in the World Cup of 1979 when he along with Collis King massacred the hapless English bowling or of his magnificent innings of 192 in New Delhi. Nor of the famous scrap with the Aussies in 1975 and of Clive Lloyd rebuilding the team following that defeat. But still its a good documentary with good video footages, lots of sound bytes and overall you get the feeling of greatness in the man, even when he is down on the village ground or at the beach playing with his local friends or the kids in the village. It did mention at the beginning that only few bowlers troubled him and one of them was the legendary Indian leg spinner B.S. Chandrashekhar.

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The End of the Line

Brilliant Nat Geo documentary about the marine life in the oceans, based on the book by Charles Clover “The End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the world and What we Eat”. The documentary talks about over fishing in the seas and oceans that has led to the decimation of several species of fishes like the cod fish, blue tuna fish and several other large fishes. Greed amongst the large corporations which employs trawlers, deep trawlers and massive trawlers to capture as much fish as possible for the increasingly health conscious market. More and more people are eating fish these days especially with the advent of the celebrity chefs recommending some rare fishes. Corporatisation has been killing the fishing industry since the last 50 years. They employ huge manpower, technology, huge vessels in order to garner the market. What is happening is that large fishes are being captured at the expense of the small fishes, leading to extinction of large fishes which in turn is disrupting the normal life chain in the oceans and seas. Interesting and in depth documentary this, with lot of experts weighing in with their expert talk and commentary and quotes. The failure of the governments, politicians, business leaders in regulating the fishing trade might see the end of the line for the fishing industry by 2048. There will be no more fishes left to be caught and eaten. Its irony that wildlife extinction is getting so much of eyeballs whereas ocean life extinction is not getting as much attention as it deserves. Worth watching documentary this. Highly recommended, especially for fish lovers. They can buy fish which has been rated as sustainable rather than wild fish.

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Kashmir the Story

An engrossing six part series on Kashmir its history, its significance, its problems, the events that became its various turning points and the personalities involved. It starts with its mythological origin from Sage Kashyap and then goes on to narrate the various key milestones in its history, the different dynasties that ruled over the kingdom from time to time, the Afghans, the Mughals, the Sikh dynasty, the British, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Raja Gulab Singh, Raja Hari Singh and then the independence, accession, and so on.

Its in a narrative form with interviews with key persons like Karan Singh, who is the son of Raja Hari Singh, William Dalrymple, prominent historians and journalists etc. Despite being in a narrative form it is not boring because there are ample archival photos and video footages from the past including that of Jawaharlal Nehru, Jinnah, Sheikh Abdullah, General Yahya Khan, Indira Gandhi etc. Importance of Kashmir from the geographical, political and strategic point of view is clearly bought out by this documentary. The criticality of Kashmir for all the parties involved – India, Pakistan and China becomes clear from this documentary. I thought since the docu was produced by Times Network, it might become biased towards the end, but thankfully, it remained neutral throughout. Available to view on Amazon Prime Video.

The photo above is taken from the internet and for representational purposes only, not with an intent to violating copyright.

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The Andorra Hustle

Deadly and most explosive documentary on how Spain tried to subvert the Catalonian independence movement and in the process bringing down a reputed Andorran bank and its customers and employees and owners who all lost their monies and the employees many of whom are still facing prosecution and possible jail terms. Banca Privada D’ Andorra was charged with money laundering under section 311 of the US FINCEN Act which was enacted post 9/11. Multiple levels of money laundering accusations were thrown at the bank – from the Russian mafia, Venezuelans. The Big Four accounting firm was roped in to cook up stories while the main reason for the charge was to make the bank hollow and sell it to a US buyer for a pittance. But the real impetus for the action came from Spain which has been thwarting the Catalonian independence movement for more than 7 decades. The film maker very deftly maneuvers through the dubious machinations of the politicians, the corrupt judges who give lopsided judgements, and others to give a very explosive account of the real reason why a running, working, profitable bank was bought down. In the world of politics, nothing bars them from implicating anything and anybody under any law and sending multiple prosecutors one after another to indict a person. We have seen that happen in India as well. Very well researched and thoroughly meticulously made documentary. The Big Four, big banks, the US authorities, Spanish authorities are all complicit in this.

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The Drill Project

The Drill Project, a breathtaking documentary on conservation of drills a sub species of monkeys found in the Bioko Island of Equitorial Guinea. This species of monkeys is hunted for its meat and although illegal, the prices are high in the market for the drill meat. The Drill Project is a conservation effort backed by the government of Equitorial Guinea. The documentary focuses on life in general in the Bioko Island forest which is a spectacular rain forest with a rich diversity of life in it. The documentary traces the life of one adult monkey who is injured in a human trap and unless he recovers sufficiently in time to mate, his future generation would be wiped off from the face of the earth. The government is focusing on educating the villagers as well as organising eco tourism by employing local guides to take tourists into the forests so that they earn a living as well as consider forest their home to protect. It is a brilliant documentary to watch on youtube.

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The Cape Verde Islands

Nice documentary on the Cape Verde Islands, an archipelago off the coast of West Africa. It is a set of 10 volcanic islands comprising the entire Cape Verde archipelago. Not much of natural resources there except for fishing and then also Japan and Spain have captured most the permits out into the open sea with their huge mechanised trawlers leaving very little for the locals. Agriculture and meat is available for the locals. The documentary traces the story of four or five people in the island, which is good, because then it does not get boring. These are beautiful islands, with a lot of sun, good clean beaches so tourist potential is huge. Language is mostly Portugese because they were the ones who discovered these islands and colonised it for long. Nice documentary to watch.

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River of Life

Absolutely breathtaking Nat Geo documentary on the Okavango river in Botswana with some magnificent footages and story line and narration to go with that. The close up videos of animals were astounding to say the least. The narration follows the flow of the Okavango River, the entire length and breadth of it upto the Kalahari desert and changing lifestyles for animals in that. The river provides life to the animals and the river also takes away the life of many animals. Any animal who is slow or strays too dangerously away from his pack is a goner. Its like brilliant, the best animal documentary i have seen, even though it is more than 2 hours long, it is worth every second of it.

I watched it here on this link.

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This is Congo

Brilliant BBC documentary on the Congo war (i.e. Democratic Republic of Congo) going on for more than two decades. Breathtaking footages from the countryside ravaged by the war, people living in transit camps in dreadful conditions with no food or medical supplies. People uprooted from the villages and travelling miles and miles on foot with their belongings and children, goat and all. The latest war has been going on for more than two decades, but Congo has always been a flashpoint since many years because of its immense mineral wealth available including diamonds, gold, tin, cobalt, manganese etc. Even before the independence it was the Arabs from Madagascar who looted the country then Belgians came in and systematically looted the country of its wealth. Mobutu Sese Seko somewhat integrated the country when Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of independent Congo was assassinated. Lumumba had played a major role in stabilizing the country after independence, but Mobutu Sese Seko then introduced a dictatorial regime in the country until his death in 1997. The eastern part of the Congo bordering with Uganda and Rwanda has seen major conflicts with both these countries aspiring the wealth of Congo. Rwanda Burundi has seen the biggest genocide in the mid 90s with millions of Hutus and Tutsis being killed by each other in a tribal war. The film crew go into the war when the Congo army led by Col Mamadou in the Goma province pushed back the M23 rebel group supported by Uganda and Rwanda. Superb documentary going into the history of Congo and the present troubles and some brilliant footages of the war and actual conflict.

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